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On Wednesday, the Cleveland Cavaliers traded Isaiah Thomas and their own 2018 first-round pick to the Los Angeles Lakers in exchange for Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. They then completed a three-team trade with the Utah Jazz and Sacramento Kings – acquiring Rodney Hood and George Hill in the process. How did the moves pan out on Sunday?
It appears as if LeBron James finally received the help he needs, at least for one game. I’ll let Nick Wright summarize it:
Put four active, happy players who can shoot around LeBron James. That team is going to the Finals. pic.twitter.com/PBAhXm9hRj
— First Things First (@FTFonFS1) February 13, 2018
Many of you are thinking “Why would a LeBron homer not say this?” Well, you’d be right. On the other hand, though, the Cavaliers looked very good against the Celtics. James, who posted a stat line of 24 points, eight rebounds and 10 assists, had this to say following the game:
“The attention to detail tonight was at an all-time high for the first time this season… We got some players that can go out and get their own, that’s pretty smart, and they picked it up like they’ve been here all year.”
This is a pleasant sight if you’re a Cleveland fan. Not only did the new-look Cavaliers manage to drop 121 points on the Celtics, but they did so while holding Kyrie Irving’s squad to 99 points. Any time you win by 22 in an NBA game, you’re making a statement. LeBron wasn’t the only player who played well Sunday, though.
George Hill, acquired from the Sacramento Kings, pitched in 12 points and three rebounds in 21 minutes of work. He appears to be a LeBron-friendly point guard: someone who spaces the floor, can shoot and is a very solid defender.
Jordan Clarkson scored 17 points in 23 minutes on 7/11 shooting, including going 3/4 from behind the arc. He demands the ball a bit more than is ideal but off the bench, he’ll be a great scoring option for the team moving forward. He won’t need LeBron on the floor at all times as he’s great at creating his own shot.
Rodney Hood scored 15 points in 19 minutes on Sunday. Shooting 39% from deep on the season, Hood has developed into a sharpshooter. Much like Clarkson, he can handle the ball and create his own shot with little issue.
Larry Nance Jr. did a little bit of everything, adding five points, four rebounds, three assists and a steal to the box score off the bench. Nance isn’t a very talented player and isn’t going to see as much playing time as his counterparts but he’s a long athletic big that can get to the rim with little problem. His potential should be maximized any time he’s on the court at the same time as LeBron.
Overall, this team just looked better than the prior version. The youth movement in Cleveland worked (for a game). Surrounding LeBron with players who can shoot and want to defend makes for a lethal squad.
What does this mean for Boston?
The Celtics just had a rough game in general. Kyrie Irving was only able to contribute 18 points. Terry Rozier was the team’s leading scorer. The odds likely aren’t in your favor if that’s the case. Is the season over for the Celtics? Absolutely not. One contest during an 82-game season does not define the entire year. Boston was the favorite to come out of the Eastern Conference before Thursday’s trade deadline. With that said, it appears as if that’s no longer the case.
Had Cleveland not made any moves at the trade deadline, the team would likely still have figured things out in time to make a run in the postseason. With the addition-by-subtraction and injected youth/three-point shooting, this team is dangerous. LeBron James looked happy for the first time in weeks. George Hill seemed interested in basketball for the first time all season. Young players such as Clarkson, Hood and Nance will benefit from having a veteran like James at their access 24/7. Things are looking up for the Cavs.
Like I previously mentioned, the season isn’t over yet and this is just one of many games left on the schedule. Is it possible the Celtics just had an off game? Absolutely. Could the Cavaliers fall apart again? Absolutely. These are just some observations from the game I saw yesterday. I saw a team that looked genuinely interested in playing for the first time in 2018 and I saw another team that couldn’t do anything to stop the momentum from swinging the other way. It’s bound to be an interesting finish in what is now (again) a crazy Eastern Conference.